11 ½ months later I dust off my list of goals to see how I’ve done. It’s like digging up a time capsule left by my former self.
At the end of the year I am pleasantly surprised to see which goals I met, but also disappointed in those that I didn’t. Without fail, there are always goals that I could have met but forgot about over the year.
“Set it and forget it” is not an effective strategy for achieving your goals. I have learned from experience that there are three keys to reaching your goals in the year ahead.
First, set goals that come from the heart. One of the reasons why most people fail to meet their goals is that they set goals that they are supposed to want, rather than what they really do want to achieve.
Every year, I set a goal of losing a few pounds. Every year, I come up short. Maybe losing those extra few pounds isn’t really that important to me. It might be important to someone else – my doctor, my neighbor, that guy at work that I am secretly competing with, but apparently it’s not that important to me or I would be more focused on it. Perhaps my goal should be to maintain a healthy weight or to feel comfortable in my clothes without having to buy more because my waistline has changed.
Your goals should be your goals, not someone else’s. Do you really want to lose 10 pounds or is what you really want to simply be healthy and feel comfortable in your clothes? Those are very different goals. For me, I think it’s the latter.
Second, write down your specific goals. If your goals aren’t written down, you have almost no chance of achieving them, and any goal you do achieve is probably just by coincidence. Just the simple act of writing down your goals improves your odds greatly. And you need to be specific about what you want. The more specific the better.
A while back I listened to a Tim Ferriss interview of Scott Adams, the cartoonist who created the comic strip Dilbert. During the interview Scott describes his use of affirmations where he writes down his wildest goal 15 times a day until it is achieved.
His formula goes like this: I (insert your name) will (insert your specific goal).
“I, Scott Adams, will become a famous cartoonist,” for example.
You probably don’t have to go to the extreme of writing every goal down 15 times a day, but writing down your goals is key to making them happen.
Here’s one of my goals for 2016:
- Organize our family photos on the computer and create a 2015 photo book in time for Valentine’s Day. (Guess what my wife is getting for a Valentine’s Day gift this year). Or using Scott Adams formula: I, Mike Branch, will organize my family photos and create a 2015 photo book by Valentine’s Day.
That’s a pretty simple goal, but I had the same goal last year and never reached it even though this goal was written down. The reason why brings me to the third key to reaching your goals in 2016.
Third, refer back to your written goals regularly. This is where I usually drop the ball. I am great a setting and writing down goals. I can even go into great detail about the specifics of each goal, but the part where you refer back to them regularly? Not so much.
The more challenging part is referring back to your goals regularly. This is always were I fall short and why I missed the photo goal above.
Last year I had the same exact photo goal that I listed above. In fact, I even wrote it down. Somewhere. But I reviewed my goals only sporadically during the year. Alas, our photos are still a jumble spread out on multiple computers and devices.
By waiting 11 ½ months to review my goal list, it basically became a wish list. If I were to review my goals weekly or even monthly, they would always be top of mind. That photo goal would still be out there, nagging at me each week until it was met.
The bonus key that makes it all happen. The three keys I outlined above are a simple process that helps me reach my goals. Regardless of your process, setting goals that come from the heart, are written down, and that you refer back to regularly are the keys to reaching your goals in 2016.
There is one more key to making your goals happen. You MUST TAKE ACTION! You can write down your goals and refer back to them every day, but unless you actually take steps to make your goals happen they never will. That sounds so obvious, but it’s easily overlooked.
Financial goals. Your financial goals aren’t any different than your personal goals.
They need to be goals that you want to achieve, are written down, and are referred back to regularly. You also need to take action.
That’s why I typically meet with clients one or two times a year to review their goals, evaluate progress and discuss the specific action items you need to take to reach your goals.
“Retiring someday” and “helping your kids with college” aren’t goals. They are lukewarm wishes at best.
“Contributing $10,000 per year to my child’s college education and retiring at age 62 with 90% of my current income so that I can maintain my lifestyle in retirement without fear of running out of money during my lifetime”. Now that’s a goal.
Let’s make it happen.